Norwich grandmother regains sense of smell after 37 years

A grandmother has told of her joy at regaining her sense of smell after 37 years, thanks to an operation.

June Blythe, from Taverham, has had a condition called chronic rhinosinusitis for almost four decades, but now after surgery she has started to rediscover a world of smells and scents, and the powerful effect that has had on her emotions as well as her sense of taste.

Despite being unable to smell for so long, the 65-year-old has always been passionate about cookery and won prizes for her food, although until recently her chief pleasure from cooking has been the enjoyment it gives others, rather than herself.

The grandmother-of-two, who lives with her husband John in St Walstan's Road, said: 'I just keep having these amazing experiences. I can honestly tell you it's like I'm living in a different world. I never thought that this would be an experience I would ever have after 37 years of no sense of smell at all. I'm just taking full advantage now to be able to smell everything and taste everything.'

She had an operation to remove growths called polyps on June 26, but had not held out any hope that she would regain her sense of smell, as she had had three similar procedures before with no success.

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But this time, 10 days later, when the inflammation had gone down, it was different.

'I was cooking with lemon, making lemon and sultana scones for friends coming round and all of a sudden I could smell lemon. I was on my own and just stood there and cried.'

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Mrs Blythe rang her husband, who asked if she had smelt anything else yet and told her to try smelling coffee.

At first she was too afraid to try in case she had been imagining it, but when Mrs Blythe sniffed it and realised she could smell the coffee she was overwhelmed.

It took her a few days more to work up the courage to finally put on the perfume she had never smelt – the same one she has worn for years and which was picked out for her by her daughters. 'I knew instantly what my daughters meant when they said it smells of Mum, and I loved it.'

Regaining her sense of smell has also awakened strong emotions from the time before she developed chronic rhinosinusitis, which had left her unable to breathe out of her nose and which exacerbated her asthma. She said: 'My first baby boy didn't survive. He was full-term but he died and we had to come home from hospital without a baby.

'You can imagine there are those smells that distinctly associated with a baby and I went straight into the nursery we had prepared and I could smell everything.

'The smell of the wool, the newness of the clothes, particularly the Johnson's baby powder and the soap. You smell it and you never forget it. I would torture myself and keep going in to the room, opening the wardrobe and holding the little vests and smelling them and the smells of a new baby.'

Mrs Blythe was able to finally enjoy the same aromas when she and her husband had their first daughter Susie. She had completely lost her sense of smell by the time her second daughter Claire arrived and so is now eagerly awaiting the arrival of her third grandchild, due early next year, so she can revisit these special scents.

Ear, nose and throat consultant surgeon, Mr Carl Philpott, runs the country's only NHS Smell and Taste Clinic at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, and he carried out the operation on Mrs Blythe. The pioneering clinic is helping diagnose and treat people from across the country that suffer from a condition called anosmia – the inability to detect odours.

Mr Philpott said: 'Smell is the sense that we most take for granted but when lost it has a profound impact on patients.'

A 'Food, Flavour and our Fifth Sense' event will be held on Sunday, September 23, from midday to 4pm at St Andrews Hall, Norwich. Tickets can be purchased from Brenda Peck at James Paget Hospital on 01493 452832, or online at For more information or to book a stand, contact Duncan Boak on 07976 551796 or email

Do you have a health story? Call Kim Briscoe on 01603 772426 or email

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